Hokkaido Ramen Santouka - The Crown Jewel Of Ramen in Vancouver



The search for the perfect ramen brings me back to the time when I was a culinary apprentice that enjoyed watching all movies that was food related. Specifically there was a Japanese movie called "Tanpopo". Tanpopo is a widowed chef with a struggling noodle store. With the help of a trucker she learns the secret to good ramen.There are also various sub-plots, lots of food related humour. If you have an interest in Japanese culture and food, and lucky enough to find this movie, I highly recommend it.


Japanese cuisine in Vancouver has come a long way. Earlier incarnations of the cuisine were far removed from a typical authentic Japanese food experience in Japan. The first time I had Japanese ramen in Vancouver was at Ezogiku.Then later at Gyoza King (before it expanded it's menu to add izakaya items). I though it was far better then the ramen at the Japanese restaurant Kamei, Aki etc etc... .Then Kintaro opened and set the standard for ramen noodle in the city. In the past few years there have been no shortages of new ramen noodles houses. There are three component to good ramen. I use to thing that the most important thing to good ramen is a great broth. A slow simmering controlled broths simmering for up to days with fresh ingredients. A rich broth would be the most important thing to a good bowl of noodle right? But the Japanese just like the Italians understood that it is the noodles that is the most important component. In fact many Japanese don't drink the broth but rather enjoy the noodle and the soup is simply to enhance and  enjoy the noodles. Besides the noodles and the soupy broth, the other component is the topping.


The latest ramen entry to the city is located close to the hub of the major Ramen centre of Robson/Denman. Where three top ramen noodle shops are situated including Kintaro. I was driving on Robson and notice a new ramen store. I immediately pulled over parked my car and immediately proceeded to try Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. The space is has some table and bench seating as well as some seats facing the kitchen. Being the curious cat i asked to seat facing the kitchen. I'd notice that a lot of thought has went into the planning and execution of this place. Most evident is the kitchen set-up. I believe this is by far the best set up conducive to making consistent good ramen broth. I got the feeling this franchise was experienced and makes sure the employees adhere to the systems and standards. One thing odd that i notice was that there was no pass through or expediting table for the cooks to place the noodles for the server to pick up the food. ??

I had the shio broth ramen with the pork jowl. I was surprise to find the price to be just under $13 before tax. The basic noodles options are just under $9. Kinda pricey for noodles in soup. :-D . Price consideration aside, how was the ramen? The noodles were tender with a nice bite. I have very rarely ordered the shio broth. Cause i find them to be lacking in depth and flavour generally. The shio broth at Santouka is in the best of the class. It has nice smooth flavour with a buttery finish. The freshly toasted sesame added a nice nutty and aromatic burst of flavor to complement the noodles. The fork tender pork jowl compared to all the other ramen shops in town stand a clear winner as well. It was lean and tender and perfectly cooked. Better than brisket for sure. To me this is clearly the best ramen shop today. All three components really stood out individually and yet managed to complement together. The fresh egg noodle with the well balanced broth and melt in your mouth pork. Hmm .. I'm ready to head back for more. 


Bear in mind that all new restaurant have their honeymoon period where everything and everyone works in unison and harmony. So folks enjoy Hokkaido Ramen Santouka the reigning Jewel of Ramen in this city as much as you can! Cause like a beauty queen eventually you have to hand over your crown and tiara. The benchmark is 2 years. Whilst I praised Ezogiku/GyozaKing/Kintaro/Motomachi/Benkei/G-Men/Menya when they first open, they have all either faltered or platuead. Great businesses set high standards and have systems in place to consistenly execute their food and service. Whilst it seems Santouka may have the best kitchen system in place. They best watch their back, it's just a matter of time before a bettter ramen noodle shop will come along.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Urbanspoon

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